SBJ/January 2-8, 2012/Opinion

Wishes to keep fans happy and business prosperous in 2012

As the holidays draw to a close, I find myself imagining what sports fans across North America would like to see in the new year and what gifts the sports world could bestow on its fans to make 2012 happy and festive for all — or at least for a significant portion of us.

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Mark Cuban as the owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers and a return to glory for one of America’s premier franchises. Cuban will make the other owners better and more creative on the business side as he pushes the envelope. His entrepreneurial spirit will be a test for the commissioner and for MLB Advanced Media, but his changes will benefit the fans and expand the audience for the game — especially among younger fans.

Image: AEG
NFL expands to Los Angeles and the AEG Farmers Field location. Like Cuban, Tim Leiweke is an innovator who sees things as they can be, not as they are. While I would prefer an expansion team, maybe a city losing a team will cause other poor-performing markets to step up and devote more of their resources to marketing and sales activities.

Photo by: REED HOFFMAN
Continued growth for MLS. David Beckham’s play for the Los Angeles Galaxy had a significant impact on the visibility and growth of the league. Expansion cities in the Pacific Northwest have set a standard for fan involvement and community support, and new venues such as Livestrong Sporting Park in Kansas City have provided a revenue-generating model. The success should continue as the quality of play improves.

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Another small-market champion in the NBA. It is critical to demonstrate that championships can be won regardless of the size of the market to slow down the flood of players leaving smaller markets to go to larger markets and team up with other superstars. As I write this in mid-December, I fear that Dwight Howard will be the third premier big man to leave his original team and play for the Lakers (after Shaquille O’Neal and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). The popularity of the NFL is due in no small part to the fact that its superstars have long careers in their original markets. Bonding fans and players works. So Kevin Durant: Please stay in Oklahoma City for the long term. You will be loved and supported like no other.

A re-examination of the role and effectiveness of the NCAA. The past year taught us that the system is broken in terms of compliance, priorities, fiscal responsibility, recruiting, student-athlete conduct, coaching ethics and contractual fulfillment. Wish I had suggestions, but situations such as one-and-done in college basketball indicate that being a student might not be the priority for some of our institutions of higher learning.

Photo by: JOE FARAONI / ESPN
More quality journalists like Bob Ley of ESPN’s “Outside the Lines.” He is a thorough investigative reporter who is able to present stories without leading the audience or attempting to influence by offering his own take. At the same time, he takes on controversial topics no matter how uncomfortable it might make the audience.

Sports leaders assuming responsibility and taking decisive actions. The Jerry Sandusky saga has shown us that no one is more important than the integrity and mission of an organization. We need to stop thinking about how something might affect the image of a program or person and focus on stopping damaging behavior and poor decision-making.

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Acceptance of Tim Tebow by the critics and the experts. All he does is lead with his heart and rally his team for exciting victories that keep the viewers tuned in. The combination of Tebow fans and haters is the ideal attraction for fan interest and involvement. Given everything we have seen in the past few months, why don’t we rally around a true leader who is humble and goes about his daily life with the integrity that we so sorely need?

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A false-positive test for Ryan Braun. While I fear the worst, I hope for baseball’s sake that the results are a mistake and this young man can be one of the faces of baseball, especially for small-market fans.

Players: How about a little candor and honesty when asked about a decision you made or your future plans? Sorry, Albert: If it really was God’s plan and you were merely being obedient in going to Los Angeles, I am upset about how God is spending his time. Seems to me we have more pressing needs, although I guess I can see the fit — they are the Angels.

Finally, I would like Santa and the elves to really rethink this BCS through. There has to be a better system than this: Coaches voting for or against other schools because of how it might impact their own teams — and that is even if they fill out the ballots themselves. Computers, coaches, witches, warlocks — let’s give the players an opportunity to settle it on the field. Because, after all, like the Ivy League, it is all about the student athletes, isn’t it?

Selfishly, I might have my 2011 wishes come true. My Oklahoma State Cowboys beat Oklahoma, were crowned Big 12 champs and are playing in a BCS bowl, although maybe not the one they should be playing in. While my Pirates were not a .500 team, they did improve, so maybe 2012 will be my 82-win season.

Wishing you the all the best 2012 has to offer, filled with integrity, sound judgement, logical decisions, and successful business models. It is a wonderful life. Thanks for reading.

Bill Sutton (wsutton@bus.ucf.edu) is a professor and associate director of the DeVos Sport Business Management Program at the University of Central Florida and principal of Bill Sutton & Associates. Follow him on Twitter @Sutton_Impact.

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